The Tivoli Theater's grand opening in 1924 was heralded by a grand parade and a carnival which attracted hundreds of Washingtonian's to the Golden Age movie theater. Yet, just over 50 years later, the Tivoli had its windows bolted up and doors closed, no longer the shining light in the Columbia Heights neighborhood. What followed afterwards was a dramatic decades-long fight over the fate of the Tivoli, bringing up questions surrounding urban renewal and the future of the neighborhood, which had suffered greatly after the 1968 riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Shock rippled through the steamy streets of Washington, DC, in early August 1979. The source of the buzz was not the result of back-to-back testing of nuclear weapons by the United States and the Soviet Union. It was not even the sale of the nearby Baltimore Orioles to D.C. lawyer Edward Bennett Williams for the grand sum of $12.3 million. The source of the city’s consternation involved the smooth timbre of a DMV staple – or the lack thereof. Felix Grant – one of Washington’s most beloved radio deejays for a generation – was being pulled from the airwaves.
After World War II, Southwest Washington, DC, underwent a bout of complete urban renewal to clean up the blighted neighborhood. But was it worth it? New buildings went up, but a community was torn apart, economic segregation ensued and the project failed to deliver on many of the promises that were made.
Of all the great minds to inhabit Washington, D.C. through the years, perhaps one of the most consequential yet often overlooked, was Alexander Graham Bell. Though his famous 1876 telephone experiment took place in Boston, Bell moved to the District shortly thereafter and worked on what he considered to be his greatest inventions in several Northwest labs over the next few decades. Of his many D.C.-based achievements, perhaps the most significant occurred at his small lab on L Street and led to the eventual birth of fiberoptic communication.
The 1970s and 1980s saw increased Latin American immigration to the United States, and to D.C. in particular. At the time, there was limited access to Latin American performing arts, something that Rebecca Read and Hugo Medrano sought to fix when they founded Grupo de Latinoamericanos Artistes (GALA) in 1976. They never expected, though, that GALA would take off and eventually become the National Center for the Latino Performing Arts. Their journey to becoming cultural icons in D.C. also coincided with the changing Latin American community in the District.
Walk up the spiral staircase at the GW Museum, take a right into the first gallery, and you will be met with a pair of large (5’ x 6’) bird-eye's-view paintings of Washington, DC. Both represent the capital city in the 1820s and, at first glance, the two works look very similar, with comparable coloring, landscape, and style. That’s not suprising as both were done by the same artist and, significantly, the two pieces share the same view – looking down on the District from Arlington Heights. But, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that the paintings represent different perspectives of the fledgling national Capitol – one aspirational, the other more realistic.
In a city full of millions of people and a myriad of activities to take part in, a twenty-five-year-old Albert Small roamed the concrete jungle that was New York City in 1949. He was a bit bored without his beloved girlfriend, Shirley, by his side. Forced to occupy his time while Shirley worked her Saturday retail job to pay for school. Albert was left to his own devices. He was more used to the slower pace of his home in Washington, DC. The hustle and bustle of the people, noise, and sights of one of the world’s largest metropolises overwhelmed him at points. On this particular Saturday, Albert ducked into an antique bookstore as a means to escape the sensory overload that is the Big Apple. What he found changed his life.
On August 1, 1971, as attendees walked through the brightly-colored and slightly cramped booths, the smell of freshly-made food, the sound of voices young, old, and everything in-between filled the park, and the sense that everyone here belonged followed them. The festival wasn’t as large as the ones that would follow, for sure, but what it offered to guests was overwhelming: a feeling of camaraderie and community. The vendors and many of the attendees had different accents, different cultures, and different histories, but in Kalorama Park, they all shared the joy of showcasing their countries’ traditions.
This was the Latino Festival of 1971, which would begin a long tradition of celebrating Latino culture in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. has been the backdrop for a number of films and TV shows throughout its history. But, at least in my lifetime, one movie just about everyone has seen is National Treasure. Known for its witty characters and adventure-packed plot centered around a heist of the Declaration of Independence. But, perhaps more surprising than the quest to steal the Declaration is the fact that it was still around to nab when the movie came out in 2004. Indeed, the Declaration’s real-life 200+ year journey from its creation in 1776 to its current display in the National Archives Rotunda gives the plot of National Treasure quite the run for its money.